Marin County is home to thousands of acres of open space; national, state and regional parks; and one of the most staggering equity disparities in the country. According to the American Human Development Project, the median income for the wealthiest community in Marin County, Tiburon, is $80,000; the lowest is Canal at $21,000. The Canal area, a primarily Latino neighborhood, falls short in health and education as well, and is rated at 3.91 on the Human Development Index (HDI). What’s even more stifling is that many affluent ‘Marinites' refuse to acknowledge this segregation, and are more concerned with protecting the character of their neighborhoods from the construction of affordable housing projects - a statement that other county residents interpret as racist and classist.
The Marinites in question posit that urban planners are forcing the development of high-density affordable housing projects and transit systems in their neighborhoods. This NIMBYist (Not In My Backyard) attitude stems from the adoption of Plan Bay Area, a twenty-five-year non-regulatory regional plan for the San Francisco Bay. Plans like these have been State-mandated for California’s eighteen metropolitan areas in order to solve problems pertaining to:
- Affordable housing;
- Population growth;
- Proximity to employment centers; and
- Transit accessibility.
Although Plan Bay Area is required under state law, its purpose is to guide development not force it; the plan explicitly states that “local land use authority is retained by the region’s cities and counties [and] will continue to determine where future development occurs.”
Despite this provision, ultra right-wing community groups continue to believe that Plan Bay Area is the extension of a global agenda to rob Americans of their freedom. Groups such as Citizen Marin and their outside agitator counterpart, the East Bay Tea Party, aggressively disrupt Town Hall meetings and verbally assault pro-affordable housing officials. They claim to be fighting against the destruction of the American Dream by regional governments; but judging by the predominately Caucasian ethnicity in communities such as the aforementioned Tiburon area, this view ends up appearing as a simple euphemism for elitism and bigotry.
How does NIMBYism affect the upward mobility of economically marginalized citizens?
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